Sunday, April 12, 2009

On Small, Low Margin Projects

Part 1: The Problem

I have been involved in some small (low margin) projects for small business customers using a classic Waterfall type process where we get all of requirements from the customer and go into our digital cave for a few months to write our masterpiece. When we came back to the customer (usually late) to show them their shinny new program, we find that we got it wrong. On one program, we get calls from the customer as he discovers features.

The customer can’t tell us what they want in language we understand; they may know what they want, but not in our language. The customer may not have any experience buying custom software. We don’t know the business and its problems well enough. I think the effects of these problems can be mitigated by delivering more often (a la Agile).

If we were to go more agile, we would need a way to get something to the customer quickly. I don’t think a customer in this market would be impressed if, after the first sprint, I showed him a base list window, a base edit window and basic security. We need a base framework and possibly some modules that exist before the first sprint for the customer.

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